A decision in the case of Bayfield County Committee for Responsible Land Use (CFRLU) vs Bayfield County in the rezone of 380 acres in a forested district in the Town of Russell from Agriculture-1 and Forestry-1, to Residential-Recreation Business, Commercial, and Agriculture-1, was issued on April 28th by Judge Anderson. The Court found in the favor of the defendant, Bayfield County. This decision leaves in place a commercially zoned area of 44.4 acres – twice the size of Miller Hill Mall – in the midst of forest and agricultural lands.
On the issue of whether this rezone is spot zoning, the Court ruled that the “property is simply too large and the scope of the project too entrepreneurial for this to be spot zoning.”
The decision states, on the issue of whether the rezone meets the County Comprehensive Plan, that although the plaintiffs raised valid concerns about the lack of deliberations for or against the rezoning proposal, a not particularly strong, but “reasonable rationale was employed by the county board when it approved the rezoning request.”
The Court cautioned the county board about the questionable conditions placed on the rezone, which were characterized in the decision as “overzealous, confusing, and legally tenuous assertions of its police power.” The decision states that the conditions could “easily be confused with negotiations with a developer to rezone.”
The CFRLU is disappointed with this decision that, it believes, sets a poor precedent for future zoning in Bayfield County. Hundreds of citizens spent thousands of hours crafting and carefully honing comprehensive plans for their towns. The citizenry expects that these plans, as well as the County Comprehensive Plan, will be seriously weighed, considered, and applied in zoning decisions. If not, Bayfield County has made no progress toward correcting the haphazard zoning process that the Comprehensive Plan was designed to remedy.
The Committee for Responsible Land Use is exploring its available options.